In Germany we visit a packaging-free store, and Europe’s largest Community Supported Agriculture farm. We then sail to Samsø to learn about their renewable energy revolution.

Kiel (DEU) – Copenhagen (DNK)

Kiel is the hometown of Germany’s first packaging-free grocery store. Reason for us to pay a visit to Marie Delaperrière and her store “Unverpackt”. We search the boat for empty containers and stack as many in our backpack as we can find. Inspired by the “zero waste” movement, Marie started the store in Kiel 2.5 years ago and is still going strong today. After she explains the concept to us, we give it a try. First we weigh our empty containers and write the weight on them. Then we fill them with organic muesli, peanuts, couscous and other healthy food. We pick some fruits and veggies before we head to the check-out. Each product is weighed there and the weight of our containers subtracted. We love the concept – it saves so much packaging material! And the food is of excellent quality, as we find out back on the boat. For a full report of this sustainable solution and the video of our shopping experience and interview with Marie, see here.

The next day we take a train and walk the last 5 km to Kattendorf, around 100 km southeast of Kiel. We have an appointment with Mathias von Mirbach, who runs the “Kattendorfer Hof”, Europe’s largest “Community Supported Agriculture” farm. The farm looks just like one pictured in a children’s book. The main farmhouse is surrounded by cottages for staff and stables where piglets play around and cows are milked. In the surrounding fields crops, fruit and vegetables are grown. How different from the industrial-style, specialized, large-scale farms which have become so common and where low-cost production is the main goal. The Kattendorfer Hof works quite differently. It produces everything according to the strictest norms for organic farming (Demeter) and is financed by its customers. Around 600 families pay a fixed monthly fee in return for a share of the harvest on a weekly basis, which they get directly from the farm. By removing the complete wholesale and retail chain, the Kattendorfer Hof is able to offer a seasonal product range at reasonable prices, and connect directly with its customers. Read all about this sustainable solution and see a video of our visit and the interview with Mathias here.

After three nights in Kiel, we feel we made some new friends in a once foreign place. People we perhaps wouldn’t have gotten to know if it had not been for our sustainability mission. Feeling that we are on the right path, we set sail in search of the next sustainable solution.

Setting Sail for Denmark

Westerly weather brings showers and fresh temperatures, but for us the wind is good news. The southwesterly beaufort 4 breeze pushes us out of the Kieler fjord and towards the Danish island of Ærø. As evening falls, we drop anchor just outside of Ærø’s main settlement Marstal. The scenery is quite different from neighbouring Germany. Small islands with gentle hills surround us, many of them uninhabited. Others are dotted with small colored houses that make up small villages waiting to be explored.

As we get ready to go ashore the next morning, we discover that we are quite far from the nearest landing pontoon. In combination with the fresh breeze it spells a tough rowing trip. What better moment to test our Torqeedo electric outboard motor? Friends and former colleagues funded it and the electricity that charged the battery was generated by our own wind energy. Free of CO2 emissions, it silently propels our dinghy to the shore. We’re amazed by the power it generates.

In Marstal we find a very cosy Danish café where we can use the WiFi – something that is vital to our mission but hard to come by. After lunch and updates to our website we discover the island on foot. As we pass by homes, we are introduced to the Danish roadside stalls. Fresh fruit and vegetables are offered in home-made booths, with hand-written price tags and small honesty boxes. It is a great way for people with gardens to make some extra money. Also quite sustainable, due to the short supply chain. We find the quality excellent and the prices reasonable so we buy from these as much as possible during our stay in Denmark.

The next day we sail to Nyborg on the island of Fyn. Is it known for its medieval castle, one of the oldest in Scandinavia. Excited to soak up some history, we get more than we bargained for when the annual medieval festival happens to be taking place that weekend. In tents dotted around town craftsmen and –women display their skills and sell their handmade products, while harp music competes with friars advertising their sacred beer. Everyone but us wears medieval attire. Nyborg castle is the center of the activities. Ironically (but ideally for us), the castle offers free WiFi. We briefly hesitate to crash their party, but our urge to send our newsletter is stronger. We sit down in one of the tents, flanked by die-hard medieval festival enthousiasts, and get out the laptop. Needless to say it felt a bit surreal and awkward, so kudos to the Danes who tolerated us and remained very friendly.

From Nyborg, it’s a daytrip to reach the island of Samsø, the destination of our next sustainable solution. We pass one of Denmark’s largest bridges spanning the “Big Belt”, the waterway separating the islands of Fyn and Sjælland. It’s impressive to see the traffic rushing by on a road 65 meters above our heads. With the wind being W4, we make good progress. Cumulus shower clouds grow on the horizon and one of them is directly in our way. The rain is quite heavy, but the luckily wind gusts stay away. The sun reappears just as we pass Samsø’s offshore wind turbines. We reach the lee of the island, so the wind dies down and soon thereafter we moor up in Ballen, Samsø’s main harbour.

Samsø’s Energy Revolution

The island community of around 4,000 has become energy independent with renewable sources. We learn how they did that at the “Energy Academy”. Initiator Søren Hermansen and his son Mads explain to us that it’s just a matter of taking action, working together and making it happen. Key to their success was to make the islanders shareholders in the wind turbines and repeat the same concept for a district heating system fed by bio-mass waste products. You can soon all about this sustainable solution and see a video of our visit here.

During our visit, there is also a Chinese news agency film crew. We join them on a visit the house of Jesper Roug Kristensen, a staff member of the “Energy Academy”. Jesper’s home is an excellent example of sustainable housing. An electrical heat-pump produces hot water, solar panels generate electricity, and his floor insulation reduces his energy consumption. He collects rainwater to water the fruit and vegetable garden and composts his green waste. His methods are not only environmentally friendly, but also cost-saving in the long run.

The next day the wind is NW6, which makes it impractical for us to sail to Copenhagen. It also means that our bike tour around the island turns into quite a workout. However, the scenic views along the coast and across hills, make it worth it. We pass forests, wetlands and cosy villages. There is also a historic Viking site: a former channel located where Samsø is at its narrowest. Vikings dug the channel as an escape route in case of an enemy invasion. The remains are clearly visible in the landscape.

Sailing to Denmark’s Capital

We set sail for Copenhagen when the wind decreases to a W5. During the day we make good progress towards the northern tip of Sjælland, the island on which Copenhagen is located. When darkness falls we reach the lee of Helsingør. This Danish town is legendary for the toll that ships had to pay, which helped pay for the impressive castle on the waterfront. Here we enter the Sont, the narrow and busy straight between Denmark and Sweden. Ferries frequently sail the short distance to Swedish Helsingborg. We quickly learn that they also do so during the night, so we use the engine to make some extra speed and get out of their way. Further southward in the Sont, the wind increases and we’re closing in on Copenhagen with speeds of up to 9 kts. When we enter the city early in the morning, we pass the little mermaid sitting lonely on her stone. Quite a rare sight, as she’s one of Copenhagen’s main tourist attractions. Close to our envisaged destination we see a closed bridge that is not on our map. We decide to moor up at a quay just before the bridge to get some sleep. However, only a few hours later we’re woken up by the harbourmaster who wants us to pay on the spot. As we discover during the day, the bridge is newly opened and part of the new biking and walking infrastructure development program. We decide to stay on our pontoon in Amaliehavn, and leave the recommended but crowded Christianhavn for what it is. We’re ready to explore Denmark’s capital city, discover its sustainability ambitions and meet new people.

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